Why So Many Cannes Auteurs Are Turning the Camera Back on Themselves

These auteurs are ready for their close-up

Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 21:31:45 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 21:31:45

These auteurs are ready for their close-up.

When Quentin Dupieux’s comedy about an ill-fated film set, “The Second Act,” opened the Cannes Film Festival May 14, it will be just one of several movies about filmmaking and filmmakers to touch down on the Croisette. After all, directors Christophe Honoré, Paul Schrader and Josh Mond are among the other prominent filmmakers who are ready to premiere semi-autobiographical stories.

Honoré’s in-competition comedy, “Marcello Mio,” casts Chiara Mastroianni as a version of herself who — after a director compares her to her late father, Marcello Mastroianni — dresses in drag and takes on his identity. Schrader’s in-competition drama, “Oh, Canada,” focuses on a documentary filmmaker (Richard Gere) telling his life story in a doc. Mond’s drama “It Doesn’t Matter” follows two friends chronicling their lives on video. Leos Carax’s 40-minute “C’est pas moi” is partly a self-portrait, with footage from his films and life. And Lou Ye’s Special Screenings drama, “An Unfinished Film,” examines a group of Chinese filmmakers who reunite to complete a production.

While there are more movies about movies than usual, they’re following in a well-established Cannes dictum — shoot what you know. After all, Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2,” essentially a story of a director with a serious case of writer’s block, was an official selection in 1963, François Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” an ode to a life spent on sets, opened the fest a decade later and Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” a big wet kiss to the silent film era, took Cannes by storm in 2011. But not all of these looks at the movie business led to boffo box office. For every “Sunset Boulevard” or “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” there’s an “Ed Wood” or “Barton Fink” with ticket sales that don’t match their acclaim.

“There are great films about filmmaking,” said Schrader, citing Guru Dutt’s 1959 Indian romantic drama “Kaagaz Ke Phool (Paper Flowers)” as his favorite. “But they’re usually too close to home, too ‘inside baseball,’ and they’re very hard to make.” He did helm 2013’s “The Canyons,” an erotic thriller set against the backdrop of putting a film together, as well as 1979’s “Hardcore” and 2002’s “Auto Focus,” each involving the early years of filming pornography, but he says that the latter two are more about prostitution.

For “Oh, Canada,” his main interest was adapting another novel by Russell Banks, author of the book he turned into his 1998 film, “Affliction.” The documentary-in-a-documentary within his film shows a dying filmmaker with a device that allows him and his interviewer to see each other in a frame. “That’s not in the book — Errol Morris pioneered that technique,” he says. “So when I was faced with shooting an interview, I thought, ‘How do you make it interesting?’” The film premieres May 17, with sales repped by WME Independent, David Gonzales and Arclight Films.

Mond’s “It Doesn’t Matter” a -

lso uses a film-within-a-film device. “One friend (Jay Will) has been going through a rough situation, wandering across the U.S. trying to figure it out,” Mond said. The other (Christopher Abbott) “encourages Jay’s character to shoot stories from his life to show him all the stuff he’s dealing with.” Each films his life with a phone, “and it’s therapy for both of them. I wanted it to feel as real as possible, and show both characters’ perspectives.”

In this project, art has imitated the filmmakers’ lives. It was inspired by Mond’s daily pandemic-era talks with an old friend, Oscar Bodden Gonzalez, who became one of his co-writers. “We started the process by him telling me about his time on the road for four years, and his stories were wild and crazy and exciting,” Mond says. “I started recording all of our conversations, then told him to shoot stuff and show me everything that he’s seen and experienced.” He added his own footage and worked with editor/producer Alice de Matha to create a fictionalized script from it all. “I reshot the footage with actors, but it feels like the characters shot them.” The film premieres May 16, repped by CAA.

Carax’s “C’est pas moi (It’s Not Me)” came to life after Paris’ Centre Pompidou asked him to create an exhibition and an autobiographical short. “We didn’t have time, but we kept the idea and made it in a much more ambitious way,” said producer Charles Gillibert. Here, Carax blends scenes from his films with footage of his life, and the result “is kind of a portrait of the 20th century and our time, yet more personal. It talks about the evolution of cinema, and it’s a way to talk about the parallel evolution of civilization. It has to do with himself, but a lot of people could see themselves in it.” The film bows May 18, repped by Les Films du Losange.

Honoré’s “Marcello Mio” was sparked by his idea of making a movie about “an actress going through an identity crisis.” That led him to ask his longtime collaborator Chiara Mastroianni for permission to develop my film around her and her famous father. Honoré soon discovered that when made up in a certain way and outfitted with one of those sleek Italian suits, Chiara looked remarkably like Marcello. He asked her to re-create several scenes and moments from his classic films. Adding to the surreality, her mother Catherine Deneuve and Marcello’s famous co-stars like Melvil Poupaud also play fictionalized versions of themselves. It bows May 21, repped by MK2 Films.

“Every filmmaker is tempted to make a film about cinema, and I’ve always known that mine would focus on actors, especially that moment when they’re not working,” Honoré said. “It’s quite a strange and mysterious time for us filmmakers, because when they arrive on set, you don’t know where they’re coming from and where they go back to when we wrap up.”

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